Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Threats against elected officials are becoming a normal phenomenon

Open in full screen mode< p class="StyledImageCaptionLegend-sc-57496c44-2 sbxsP">Baseless theories and misinformation are spreading to a wider audience.

The Canadian Press

Threats against politicians are becoming a phenomenon increasingly normal, warn the authors of an intelligence service report of which The Canadian Press obtained a copy.

According to this report, this phenomenon is attributable to extremist rhetoric that feeds on personal grievances and misinformation.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of this report, prepared by the Working Group on Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections, through the Access to Information Act. Certain passages of the Secret/For Canadians Only assessment were deemed too sensitive to be released.

The report reveals a constellation of small violent extremist groups that have taken advantage of the proliferation of conspiracy theories, greater political polarization and #x27;a growing lack of trust in the integrity of the state.

Public inquiry into foreign interference

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Public inquiry into foreign interference

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Baseless theories and misinformation are spreading among a larger audience. In particular, this exposes Internet users to a vast network of sites undermining science, political systems and traditional authority.

The report mentions verbal violence which directly targets elected officials, noting particular hostility towards women.

The task force, created in 2019 to protect the electoral process from foreign interference, includes representatives from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada and Communications Security Establishment Canada, the country's cyberespionage agency.

Open in full screen mode< p class="StyledImageCaptionLegend-sc-57496c44-2 sbxsP">Anti-authority extremists are exploiting social media posts about foreign interference in Canadian elections, the report argues.

The report notes that while domestic terrorist threats are not strictly part of the mission of the Foreign Interference Task Force, it -ci recognizes the need to provide reviews on this issue.

The task force assessed the possible threat of violent extremism motivated by politics, religion and ideology. He concluded that a Canadian federal election would most likely be influenced by ideologically motivated violent extremism.

There is no universal worldview when it comes to ideological extremism, the report says. Rather, threat actors are motivated by a range of highly personalized demands, ideas, and grievances from across the traditional left-to-right spectrum, often deeply influenced by conspiracy theories.

Claims may be fueled by things like xenophobia, gender issues, or general anti-government sentiment.

Although threats against politicians peak during election cycles or major policy announcements, RCMP information shows that monthly and annual averages have remained relatively stable since September 2021.

[Ideologically motivated violent extremists] have increasingly normalized threats against prominent public figures outside of the election cycle .

A quote from From the Report of the Task Force on Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections

All threats against the Prime Minister and other parliamentarians reported to the RCMP are triaged and assessed to determine their link to national security, adds the task force. Approximately 20% of reported threats against the Prime Minister and 13% of those against parliamentarians between September 2021 and mid-2023 met the RCMP's national security threshold.

Even though extremist narratives and conspiracy theories do not typically manifest as a serious act of violence, they can potentially negatively affect the Canadian social fabric, according to the report.

The RCMP did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

CSIS spokesperson Eric Balsam said for its part declared that the 2023 assessment remains unchanged.

CSIS Director David Vigneault told a House of Commons committee this month that the spy service devotes about half of its counterterrorism resources to investigating the threat of violent extremism in ideological motivation. We have seen an increase in a number of threat vectors, he said.

The task force report says anti-authority extremists almost certainly exploited social media posts about foreign interference in Canadian elections to reinforce pre-existing narratives around the inherent corruption of government institutions in Canada. /p>

However, an account of the extent of the stolen election rhetoric, which led to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, n& #x27;has not emerged in the Canadian political landscape, notes the report.

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Protesters broke through security barriers and entered the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

On the issue of foreign interference, a broader companion report says that as of last June, the task force had found no evidence of a significant cyber threat to Canadian electoral processes or electoral infrastructure from state actors.

However, political parties, candidates and their staff continue to Be the target of cyber threat activities, which can take the form of online espionage, disinformation or fabricated videos called deepfakes, the report added. p>

Overall, the task force asserts that sophisticated, pervasive and persistent interference efforts pose a serious threat to Canada's national security and the integrity of its democratic institutions.

[For some foreign states, foreign interference activities] are part of their normal behavior in Canada and often peak during election periods.

A quote from Excerpt from the Report of the Security Threat Working Group security and intelligence targeting elections

Such interference, given its clandestine or deceptive nature, often takes place in a legal gray area, where it There are no laws regulating activities or where their interpretation is ambiguous, the report adds.

Canada is a priority target for foreign interference due to its role in key global alliances and bodies, enjoying a strong reputation international law that can be used or exploited to help legitimize the interests of foreign states.

Additionally, Canada's advanced, knowledge-based economy is attractive to foreign states seeking to develop their own scientific and technological expertise, the report says. Finally, Canada is home to significant diaspora communities, which some foreign states attempt to monitor, control or use to achieve their own strategic objectives.

Under a federal protocol, the heads of key national security agencies would brief a special group of senior officials about attempted election interference.

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Judge Marie-Josée Hogue, president of the public commission of inquiry into foreign interference

There would be a public announcement if the committee determined that& #x27;an incident – ​​or an accumulation of incidents – threatened Canada's ability to hold free and fair elections.

There were no such announcements in 2021 or for the 2019 elections. In both elections, the Liberals were re-elected to government with minority mandates while the Conservatives formed the majority. ;official opposition.

Allegations of foreign interference in these elections – suggestions fueled by anonymous leaks to the media – have given rise to a series of calls for a public inquiry.

The commission of inquiry, led by Quebec judge Marie-Josée Hogue, resumes hearings on Wednesday.

The hearings will focus on the merits of allegations of foreign interference by China, India , Russia and other countries in the last two general elections.

A first report on the commission's findings is expected on 3 May.

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